Spot the dif­fer­ence

As James Fo­ley is be­headed and rocket at­tacks re­sume on Is­rael:

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY URI DROMI

FOR YEARS, Is­rael has been try­ing to con­vince the West that it is the first line of de­fence against rad­i­cal Is­lam, and that if Mus­lim ex­trem­ists are not checked in their home ter­ri­tory, they might sooner or later ex­port their bru­tal­ity.

Th­ese ar­gu­ments were usu­ally dis­missed, with the UK me­dia tak­ing a lead­ing role in con­demn­ing Is­rael when­ever it was forced to de­fend it­self against the ag­gres­sion of Hizbol­lah, Ha­mas or Is­lamic Ji­had.

Sud­denly, a video clip sur­faces with Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist James Fo­ley on his knees, and the masked man who is soon go­ing to be­head him de­liv­er­ing a speech in a Bri­tish ac­cent.

Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron and For­eign Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond should re­alise that when this man and his friends come back from their tour of the Mid­dle East, they are go­ing to be slic­ing throats on UK streets as well.

Ha­mas is no dif­fer­ent from Isis, nei­ther in its Is­lamist zeal, nor in its tac­tics. Last week, Is­raeli au­thor Amos Oz told the Ger­man ra­dio sta­tion Deutsche Welle: “This morn­ing I read very care­fully the char­ter of Ha­mas. It says that the prophet com­mands ev­ery Mus­lim to kill ev­ery Jew ev­ery­where in the world.”

Some of us had read that char­ter and recog- nised the fa­nat­i­cal na­ture of Ha­mas long ago.

Ha­mas’s tac­tics of in­tim­i­dat­ing its en­e­mies are sim­i­lar to those of Isis. For­get about in­dis­crim­i­nately shelling in­no­cent Is­raeli civil­ians; in line with poor James Fo­ley, think only about one Fatah po­lice of­fi­cer named Muham­mad Al-Sw­erki. When Ha­mas took over from Fatah in Gaza in June 2007, its mil­i­tants tied him up and threw him from the roof of the 18th floor of Al Ghe­fari tower. They were more mer­ci­ful to his com­rades; they only shot them in the knees.

There is, how­ever, a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between Isis and Ha­mas. Isis is roam­ing around the Mid­dle East, try­ing to de­stroy ex­ist­ing na­tion-states and to cre­ate a bor­der­less Sunni caliphate in­stead. This is a for­mi­da­ble, per­haps un­re­al­is­tic, goal. Even if th­ese fa­nat­ics suc­ceed in crush­ing Iraq and Syria, they will still have to face the for­mi­da­ble Shi­ite power, Iran.

Ha­mas, on the other hand, has al­ready con­quered a small and well de­fined strong­hold, Gaza, and has been rul­ing it for seven years. Para­dox­i­cally, how­ever, this vic­tory only taught Ha­mas the lim­its of its power. Crushed between Egypt and Is­rael, los­ing out­side sup­port and having to feed 1.8 mil­lion peo­ple, it came to the con­clu­sion that the task was prob­a­bly be­yond its ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

There­fore, two years ago, Ha­mas lead­ers were will­ing par­tially to sur­ren­der their power and ac­cept the hege­mony of PA Pres­i­dent Mah­moud

Ab­bas, whose po­lice­men they had killed seven years ago.

Speak­ing at the Jerusalem Press Club this week, Pro­fes­sor Me­nachem Klein of Bar Ilan Univer­sity, a world ex­pert on Ha­mas, ob­served that re­al­ity had forced its lead­ers to drift away from their orig­i­nal dog­ma­tism and, with­out ever be­ing will­ing to sign a peace with Is­rael, they have been com­pelled to ac­cept Is­rael as an ac­com­plished fact.

Prof Klein lamented the fact that by re­sist­ing the Pales­tinian move for Fatah-Ha­mas rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, Is­rael had not been at­ten­tive enough to the prag­ma­tism of the po­lit­i­cal wing of Ha­mas, and in­stead strength­ened its mil­i­tary wing by be­ing lured into fight­ing it.

This is all spilt milk now but it does not mean that we should not seize the op­por­tu­ni­ties Op­er­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge has cre­ated. The mil­i­tary wing of Ha­mas has been badly beaten. When the guns fall silent, the need to al­le­vi­ate the liv­ing con­di­tions of the Gazans will be­come even more press­ing.

In a new power struc­ture, how­ever, in which Ha­mas’s abil­ity to ha­rass Is­rael is crip­pled; a Fatah gov­ern­ment is mov­ing in; moder­ate Arab forces are play­ing a greater role; and money go­ing to re­con­struc­tion in­stead of cor­rup­tion, the Gaza prob­lem might present more op­por­tu­ni­ties than risks. Will Ha­mas lead­ers one day be­come lovers of Zion? Never. But will they re­luc­tantly be co­erced into a sit­u­a­tion where they will have to leave Is­rael alone? I think that this is pos­si­ble.






A Gazan woman shields her child

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